I couldn't sleep. My mind was spinning and I couldn't seem to drive out the dark thoughts. Time ticked by and I got up and made a cup of tea. I went back to bed, mumbling to myself. "Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts..." I sat in the darkness, breathing steadily, waiting...
All at once I heard the sound of a vehicle. I know the sounds of traffic through the village very well, and this car sounded different - I knew there was trouble coming. It swept past my window and immediately a loud and sobering 'crump' had me leaping out of bed. I flew downstairs and could see a blue flashing light through my kitchen window. A police car was on the scene. I ran into the garden and saw a car on its side, smashed up and eerily silent. It had struck a parked van just outside my house. A policeman was already blocking off the road to traffic and within minutes ambulances and fire appliances had arrived. The whole garden was lit up with flashing lights. There was nothing for me to do. There was no help I could offer. There was a strange sense of being present, but completely outside of what was happening. It was as if I became invisible...lost my solidity somehow - became just an observer watching players on a stage. I began to shake. My whole body convulsed in shock. I went back to bed and began to pray - what else could I do? The hours ticked by, and still the lights flashed through my windows. It was three in the morning before they cleared the road and all went dark and quiet again. I slept then.
In the morning I began to think about what this sad event had taught me.
More than anything I think it has reminded me of the precious gift of life, and how it can be gone in the blinking of an eye. We forget we cannot be here for ever. We forget how special each day really is. We forget how we all face the same fate, and what sets us apart is how we live between now and that inevitable date in our diary. We forget that we are human, frail and vulnerable, and that if we don't love while we are here, the chance to know that joy is gone all too soon, and surely that is what life is all about? What difference the money left in the bank? What difference the house with empty rooms we leave behind? What difference the office and name on the door when there is no one behind the desk? Surely what matters is the smile on someone's face when they think of us; a garden full of flowers to delight a stranger; a story to inspire and comfort, and perhaps a memory of goodness and kindness to bring hope for a future we never get to see.
How important it is to be ourselves! We don't have long to know it or be it, but while we can, shouldn't we shine just the way we are? I've wanted to be safe in a fundamentally unsafe world. I wanted to be right, when now I realise there are countless versions of the truth. I've wanted to be validated when no one seemed to care. And I've expected to be loved when I didn't even love myself.
Having the possibility of death brought to my door in such a swift and strangely silent way must surely shake not just my body but my thinking too. How do I want to live the rest of my life? How do I want to feel on this very day? Will I allow those dark thoughts to rob me of my joy once again? Or will I remember that nothing is forever, life soon passes and while we are here we might as well dance.
It is up to me - it is up to each one of us.
I do not yet know the outcome of the accident on my doorstep, I am still praying for a good one.